Test of diplomacy

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Series Details Vol.7, No.23, 7.6.01, p11 (editorial)
Publication Date 07/06/2001
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Date: 07/06/01

GORAN Persson's whiste-stop tour around the European capitals was designed to ensure a trouble-free summit for the Swedish presidency at Göteborg. But it seems he didn't remind himself of his own objective.

While his Foreign Minister Anna Lindh has been telling everyone that Stockholm should press for a clear timetable for the closing stages of the enlargement negotiations, Persson is now suggesting he will settle for much less.

Maybe he's just being cautious in case the summit delivers rather less than it promised. Or perhaps he's reassessing his targets in the light of his discussions with other Union leaders this week.

Either way, one might have expected Persson and Lindh to be singing from the same hymn sheet at this juncture.

This nebulous situation will be of no comfort to candidate states vying to join an enlarged EU. They've always been led to believe that they could count on Sweden - it now remains to be seen if they can at Göteborg.

On the plus side, Stockholm has made impressive progress in its recent negotiations with the applicants, as our enlargement survey underlines.

And it will deserve much credit if its role in efforts to end the impasse with Turkey over the use of NATO assets by the EU rapid reaction force comes off, as seems likely.

But the biggest test of its diplomatic skills in the run-up to Göteborg will be how it handles the visit of US President George W. Bush, which risks overshadowing the EU summit itself.

The new US administration has taken a pounding from Europe over its unilateralist stance on Kyoto and surprisingly protectionist trade outlook, emphasised by this week's move to impose duties on steel imports.

At the same time, Bush has been stressing the importance of "deep ties" with Europe.

The Swedish presidency must demonstrate to the US that it is determined to do its bit to cement those ties. Only then will the EU have a serious chance of winning its arguments with Washington.

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